Sustainability at Cairns Airport

Cairns Airport is half way through a five-year Environment Strategy focusing on climate change, waste reduction, water efficiency, biodiversity protection, pollution prevention, and working with the local community. These initiatives led to Cairns Airport being crowned Airport of the Year twice in 2023, winning the Major Airport of the Year category at the Australian Airports Association (AAA) National Airport Industry Awards and being named Airport of the Year at the Australian Aviation Awards. Cairns Airport also took out the Airport Excellence Award for Sustainability for their Australia-first Sustainability Linked Loan agreement, which features a unique target committing to regenerating threatened species.

One initiative that could be enhanced by others in the region is collective waste management. To reduce waste sent to landfill, Cairns Airport sorts the waste generated in its domestic terminal into seven streams: Organics, 10c refund containers, wooden cutlery, coffee cups, cardboard, co-mingled recycling, and landfill. The organics, mostly consisting of food scraps and coffee grounds, is donated to local community gardens to grow more food. Wooden cutlery is turned into biochar, coffee cups are recycled by specialist recyclers, and money from the 10c container program is donated to local charities.

This program has been running since 2019 and has shown that there is a local demand for waste products re-purposed as a resource, especially organics. The program has also shown that public perception is shifting, and the community is expecting more from businesses. Cairns Airport’s mangrove boardwalk provides an opportunity for the public to experience the unique environment we’re trying to protect, and community clean-ups allow people and businesses to get involved in direct action against waste pollution.

Lucy Friend
Cairn Airport Environment Manager